Los Guilicos campus suffers bulk of county’s Glass fire damages
Dark soot escaped underfoot with each step on the wooded grounds of the Los Guilicos complex east of Santa Rosa, where flames two weeks ago caused more than $8 million in damage, a figure that represents the greatest losses from the Glass fire on county lands.
The fire consumed large swathes of the sprawling Sonoma Valley property at the foot of Hood Mountain Regional Park as the wind-driven blaze sprinted toward Highway 12 and into Oakmont and neighboring Trione-Annadel State Park. The Sept. 28 blaze charred countless old-growth trees and threatened a variety of buildings on the campus, including historic structures dating to the 19th century, Sonoma County’s Juvenile Justice Center, a 60-unit outdoor homeless encampment added in January and a large solar panel array that powers the 241-acre complex.
Still standing is the iconic white brick mansion built in 1858 known as the Hood House. The state landmark named for its original tenant, settler William Hood, is set to be assessed and cleaned later on. Other structures still used by the county, as well as outbuildings destroyed by the fire, will take higher priority, said Caroline Judy, the county’s general services director.
All told, the more than $8 million in estimated losses at Los Guilicos are roughly half of the hard costs the county suffered from the Glass fire. Most of the remaining county damages are to roads, public infrastructure and trees blackened by fire that have become hazards and must now be removed.
PG&E crews late last week were already on-site replacing wooden power poles and chipping problem trees. While safety and fixes to areas frequented by motorists are the focus, there is no timeline for addressing much of the carnage at the tucked-away county campus. A handful of buildings have already been labeled outright losses, and some repairs could take years.
“It’s just a cumulative effect of all these things that add up to these massive figures,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, who toured the complex on Friday. “Even for the buildings that were saved, the infrastructure to the building is questionable — the storm water or the sewer or the electrical (systems), or whatever else. That can be a big-ticket item, especially up in this area where it’s large and spread out.”
Initial loss estimates include more than $3.4 million in smoke damage throughout the campus, $1.7 million in impacts to the solar array and upwards of $1 million to water infrastructure. Another $1.3 million has been pinned to the loss of several storage facilities used by a mix of county agencies, from the Sheriff’s Office to Sonoma County Fire for EMT services, plus a modular unit where the county’s Regional Parks Department made signs.
“This one’s been red-tagged, so you can’t go inside,” Isaac Gentry, the county’s assistant building superintendent, said of the sign shop, with the heavy smell of fire still in the air. “It’s a total loss. What wasn’t damaged by the fire was damaged by the sprinkler system.”
Meanwhile, the EMT storage facility, which was one of several red stone buildings next to the Hood mansion, collapsed after winds came through a week later and knocked over the burned ruins that still stood. The structure was previously occupied by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that bought the land in 1924 and owned it for about two decades until selling it to the state for use as a girls correctional facility.
Still, the losses could have been much, much worse, said Santa Rosa Deputy Fire Chief Scott Westrope. Due to the 25 mph winds, flames raced down Mount Hood in a matter of moments, he said, forcing fire crews to pinball around the area to save what they could with limited time. That was before shifting to Oakmont a half-mile away, where they “drew a line in the sand” at Highway 12 to prevent major impacts to structures in the much denser neighborhood.
“Given the high wind speeds, it’s pretty remarkable what crews were able to save out there,” Westrope said.
Included among the saves were the vast majority of prefabricated metal-framed huts that make up the Los Guilicos Village homeless encampment just north of St. Francis Winery. Only four of the tiny homes, valued at $10,000 apiece, would end up burned to the ground, with two of the adjacent vinyl-sided units also scorched and rippled from the heat of the fire.
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